Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's jollof fried chicken

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen recipes: 3 moreish dishes by supper club pioneer Zoe Adjonyoh

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To celebrate the reissue of her groundbreaking cookbook Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, chef Zoe Adjonyoh shares three of her favourite recipes. 

When Zoe Adjonyoh published her first book, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, in 2015, there was relatively little focus on West African cuisine in mainstream British food culture. 

But in the six years since, Lopè Ariyo has won plaudits for celebrating Nigerian food via her supper club Okele and 2017 cookbook Hibiscus; two West African fine dining restaurants have opened in London (Ikoyi in St James’s in 2017 and Akoko in Fitzrovia in 2020); and acclaimed charity cookbook Community Comfort has shone a spotlight on recipes by chefs with roots in countries from Senegal to Sierra Leone.

A writer, self-taught chef and food justice activist, Adjonyoh has continued running her hugely popular Ghanaian supper clubs and pop-up residencies, and become a leading voice in championing African cuisine. Now, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen has been reissued (£20, Octopus Books), accompanied by plaudits from the likes of Nigella Lawson and Diana Henry.

“The African Food Revolution I yearned for back in 2014 has well begun,” writes Adjonyoh in her book’s new introduction, praising the “fervour, panache and explosive flavour” of chefs in Africa and the African diaspora around the world.

However, she notes that “we still don’t see African cookery shows on TV” in 2021, and “we rarely see reviews of the myriad pan-African restaurants serving up great food from an incredibly rich and diverse continent”. 

Zoe's Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh (£20, Octopus)
Zoe's Ghana Kitchen by Zoe Adjonyoh (£20, Octopus)

If you’re new to Ghanaian cooking, Adjonyoh’s recipes are a great place to start – and if you’re already familiar with the cuisine, you’ll find plenty to love here. Below, Adjonyoh shares three relaxed and vibrant dishes from the reissued edition of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, starting with her jollof fried chicken – the most popular dish on her street-food and restaurant menus. 

Seafood fans, meanwhile, should try Adjonyoh’s grilled sardines in a spiced roasted tomato sauce, a rich and simple recipe that’s perfect for weeknights. And for a plant-based Ghanaian dish, go for the spinach and agushi curry, a twist on a traditional stew that uses a classic chalé sauce as its base. A blend of onion, ginger, chilli and tomatoes, chalé sauce is an essential component of Ghanaian cooking that Adjonyoh compares to Spanish sofrito or French mirepoix.

One final note: while Ghanaian cooking is pleasingly adaptable, Adjonyoh recommends trying to use authentic West African ingredients and flavours wherever possible. If you don’t live near a Ghanaian or West African food shop and can’t track down some of the spices listed below in your local supermarket, you can find ethically sourced blends at Adjonyoh’s online shop. Happy cooking. 

Jollof fried chicken

Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's jollof fried chicken
Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's jollof fried chicken

Zoe says: “By far the most popular dish on both our street-food and restaurant menus is this super-crispy and succulent fried chicken recipe – I really shouldn’t be giving away the secret!”

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp jollof dry spice mix (see below)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 500ml–1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the coating:

  • 150–200g cornflour
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

Mix the jollof dry spice mix, sea salt and black pepper with the rapeseed oil in a large bowl. Add the chicken strips and buttermilk and turn to coat them all over.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1–2 hours, preferably overnight.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer (the safest option) or heavy-based, deep saucepan filled to just under half the depth of the pan to 180–190°C or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, put the cornflour in a separate bowl with the seasoning and nutmeg and mix well.

Dip each chicken strip into the seasoned cornflour to coat evenly – try to do 4 or 5 pieces in quick succession, as you need to drop them into the hot oil straight away.

Fry the chicken, in batches, for no more than 3–4 minutes to keep them succulent and juicy yet cooked through, and golden and crispy but not burnt. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper, keeping the cooked chicken hot while you fry the rest.

It’s that easy – the best fried chicken you’re ever going to eat! Serve with jollof rice, coleslaw or chunky yam chips, with a side of mayo. 

Jollof dry spice mix

Zoe says: “This is a great secret weapon to bring out for marinating meat before grilling, frying, baking or barbecuing.”

Ingredients

  • 30g ground ginger
  • 16g garlic powder
  • 10g ground onion
  • 5g smoked paprika
  • 20g dried chilli flakes
  • 30g dried thyme
  • 12.5g ground cinnamon
  • 12.5g ground nutmeg
  • 12.5g ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cubeb tail pepper
  • scant 1 tsp dried ground prawn/shrimp or crayfish powder (optional)

Method

Blend all the ingredients together in a spice grinder or pestle.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within a few months.

Grilled sardines in a spiced roasted tomato sauce

Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's grilled sardines in a spiced roasted tomato sauce
Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's grilled sardines in a spiced roasted tomato sauce

Zoe says: “Canned sardines or pilchards in tomato sauce cooked with chalé sauce and served with rice or kenkey was an easy dish that my dad frequently rustled up when we were growing up and was one of the first dishes on my menu when I started putting on supper clubs – just the way Dad used to make it.

“I still serve this dish today but slightly updated with a couple of twists, using fresh sardines rather than canned and a roasted fresh tomato sauce. It’s just as simple and delicious.”

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, grated (unpeeled if organic)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp extra-hot chilli powder
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100ml good-quality vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ tbsp tomato purée
  • ½ tsp sea salt, plus extra to season
  • 12 whole fresh sardines, scaled, gutted and washed
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • ball of Ga kenkey (see tip below), to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Place all the ingredients except the sardines, lemon juice, oil and kenkey in a bowl and toss together. Spread out on the lined baking tray and roast for 25 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and place the sardines on top. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil, and season with an extra pinch of sea salt. Return to the oven and cook for a further 15–20 minutes until the sardines are cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the kenkey. Add to a saucepan of boiling water, then reduce the heat slightly and leave to cook for 8–10 minutes or until you can easily insert a fork. Drain and transfer the kenkey to a board or plate.

When cool enough to handle, remove the corn cob leaf wrapping, then slice into 8 discs – lots of steam will be released, so be careful.

To serve, lift the cooked sardines gently from the tray to keep them whole for presentation. Place 2 discs of kenkey in the centre of each plate, then ladle over a large spoonful of the roasted tomato sauce and carefully layer 3 sardines on top, making sure they remain intact.

Serve with crispy fried kale and a spoonful of shito (hot pepper sauce).

Tip

Shop-bought banku is just as good as making your own – most African grocers will have one of those red- or blue-coloured cool boxes with a stock of ready-made fresh or vacuum-packed Ga kenkey or banku hiding inside. It’s very affordable and comes in packs of two, which is more than enough for this recipe. Just boil it for 8–10 minutes so that it is malleable, as it’s supposed to be eaten with your hands.

Spinach and agushi curry

Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's spinach and agushi curry
Ghanaian recipes: Zoe Adjonyoh's spinach and agushi curry

Zoe says: “Here’s my twist on traditional kontomire or nkontomire stew – a delicious vegan spinach curry, to which you can add extra steamed veg of your choice to make it into a more substantial meal.”

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 350ml uncooked chalé sauce (see below)
  • 100g or about 2 heaped tbsp agushi (dried ground melon seeds)
  • 8 guinea peppers, crushed (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 150–300ml water or good-quality vegetable stock, if required
  • 200g baby leaf spinach
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

For the grilled plantain (optional):

  • 4–6 ripe plantains
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • ½ tbsp dried chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • coconut oil (melted) and olive oil, for drizzling

Method

Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the coconut oil. When it has melted, add the onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened, then add the curry and chilli powders and stir well.

Stir in the chalé sauce and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Gently stir in the agushi, using the back of a wooden spoon to break down any lumps that may form – the sauce should start to turn creamy and resemble scrambled eggs.

Add the guinea peppers, if using, and the lime juice. Leave to simmer over a medium heat for a further 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add the water or vegetable stock a little at a time to loosen it. The colour of the stew will have changed from pink to a mustard colour.

Stir in the spinach and sea salt and black pepper, then simmer gently until the spinach has wilted.

Meanwhile, prepare the grilled plantain, if making. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Using a sharp knife, peel the plantains by cutting the tips off each end and slicing through the skin lengthways (avoid cutting into the flesh), then use your hands to remove the skin.

Cut the plantains in half lengthways. Rub with the ground ginger, chilli flakes and sea salt, and drizzle with coconut or olive oil.

Grill for 12–15 minutes, turning over halfway through.

Serve alongside the spinach curry.

Chalé sauce

Zoe says: “This basic recipe is based on my dad’s everyday cooking sauce. He would whip this up and then literally throw in any type of meat, fish or protein, but it was always tasty.

“You can just blend the ingredients and store the uncooked sauce for later use, or cook it and then leave to cool – either way it saves time when making many of the recipes in this book. I make a big batch of this at least once a week – you can easily double the quantity if you want to make a bigger batch, although it’s not necessary to increase the scotch bonnet unless you like it extra-extra-hot!”

Makes 500ml

Ingredients

  • 400g can tomatoes or 600g fresh tomatoes
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers
  • 30g or 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 small white onion, roughly diced
  • 5cm piece fresh root ginger, grated
  • 1 small red scotch bonnet chilli (use half and de-seed if you have a low heat tolerance)
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves (optional)
  • sea salt to taste

To cook:

  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp extra-hot chilli powder

Method

Place all the ingredients except the ‘to cook’ ones in a blender and blend together until you have a fairly smooth paste.

Saute the onion until soft – add the spices and cook until all melded together. Add the blended tomato mixture and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes until the tartness of the tomatoes has cooked out.

Use straight away, or leave to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for future use. 

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen: An Introduction To New African Cuisine  From Ghana With Love by Zoe Adjonyoh (£20, Mitchell Beazley) is out now

Photography: Nassima Rothacker 

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